Combat Zone Wrestling (CZW) has several huge events throughout the year, including Cage of Death and Tournament of Death, but arguably their biggest event of the year is the Best of the Best tournament. The first BOTB debuted in 2001 and over the years it’s seen the best of the US indies compete against international stars, with the likes of Trent Acid, B-Boy, Sonjay Dutt, Mike Quackenbush, Adam Cole, Sami Callihan, Mike “Speedball” Bailey, Jonathan Gresham and David Starr winning the tournament, with many more taking part. This Saturday sees another huge field of 16 competitors, and for only the second time in the tournament’s history (CZW World Champion Ruckus had to defend it during the sixth BOTB in 2006).
16 Competitors. 1 Night. 1 Champion.
— SAT AUG 10 – CZW v WXW (@combatzone) April 7, 2019
Leyla Hirsch vs. Shazza McKenzie
Leyla Hirsch has emerged as one of the goldmine prospects of CZW. A student of DJ Hyde, Hirsh has been on a tear of late, defeating legends like Mercedes Martinez, LuFisto and even former CZW World Heavyweight Champion Joe Gacy. She faces another legend in Aussie superstar Shazza McKenzie, an 11-year pro with Aussie indies like Pro Wrestling Australia (PWA Black Label), Melbourne City Wrestling (MCW), and others, plus a veteran of the US scene with SHIMMER since 2012. Can Shazza end Leyla’s momentum or will she be another veteran on the warpath?
YDNB (Ellis Taylor & Charlie Tiger) vs. IFHY (Shawn Kemp & Jonathan Wolf)
Young Dumb N’ Broke (YDNB) are an emerging trio who have been one of the rising new stars in CZW via the CZW Dojo Wars series. Featuring Ellis Taylor, Charlie Tiger, and Griffin McCoy, the three young athletic wrestlers are the undeniable future of the CZW Tag Team division. IFHY are a young emerging tag team from Indiana that has spent the last year developing with Indiana’s Paradigm Pro Wrestling (PPW), Pro Wrestling Freedoms and Southern Underground Pro (SUP). The team is comprised of young stars who are multi-generational wrestlers. Shawn Kemp is the 20-year old son of 18-year indie veteran TJ Kemp (of Hoosier Pro Wrestling), while Jonathan Wolf is a third generation wrestler, son of 23-year indie wrestler Joey Owens (of PPW, IWA Mid South, and Insanity Pro Wrestling) and grandson of 39-year pro Don Basher, who competed in Central Wrestling Federation/NWA Indiana and others since 1985. This young duo is following in the family business and are making their CZW debut on Saturday.
Best of the Best Competitors
Anthony Greene, BOTB Debut
Anthony Greene has been working the indies since 2012, starting off in his native Massachusetts and surrounding area, with Beyond Wrestling and Chaotic Wrestling, before joining CZW in 2017. Since then, his stock has risen considerably, and now the brash bravado of Anthony Greene and his Platinum Hunnies sidekicks Angel Sinclair & Ava Everett are breaking out as one of the new stars of the US indies.
B-Boy, 8th BOTB (Won in 2003)
B-Boy is a West Coast legend and star with Pro Wrestling Guerrilla (PWG) in its earliest days. Like many early 2000s pioneers, he’s seeing a resurgence in the US indies of late and with due recognition. B-Boy is a former CZW World Heavyweight Champion, 3x PWG World Tag Team Champion and one of the biggest stars of the early 2000s West Coast indie scene.
Darius Carter, BOTB Debut
Darius Carter, from Florida, is a 10-year veteran and a man who has risen the ranks with Beyond Wrestling, Tier 1 Wrestling (where he’s the reigning 2x Tier 1 Champion), Warriors of Wrestling (WOW) and much more. It’s been two years since Carter competed for CZW, but winning BOTB 18 would make an immediate statement.
David Starr, 4th BOTB (Won in 2018)
David Starr is finally breaking out in the US, after years as a main event star in the UK and Germany. The American indie grappler is one of the best on the mic and last year finally won BOTB in his third attempt. He’s back for his fourth BOTB tournament and hopes to become the first man to win the tournament back to back.
Fred Yehi, BOTB Debut
Georgia’s Fred Yehi has been on many people’s lists as one of the most underrated talents in the US. A former Full Impact Pro World Heavyweight Champion (for over 550 days!), Yehi was also a focal point in EVOLVE‘s Catch Point stable with Drew Gulak, Matt Riddle, TJ Perkins, “Hot Sauce” Tracy Williams, and Doom Patrol (Chris Dickinson & Jaka). The 7-year pro is just now hitting his stride.
Gary Jay, BOTB Debut
St. Louis’ Gary Jay is a 16-year veteran of Southern indie wrestling who is finally getting his due as one of the toughest grapplers out of the Midwest. A star in Texas, Southern and Midwest indies, Gary Jay is primed as a heavy favorite going into BOTB 18.
Jimmy Rave, 3rd BOTB
Jimmy Rave is an indie veteran from the earliest days of the rise of the US indies in the early 2000s, making his debut in 1999. In the late 2000s, he had stints with Ring of Honor and TNA/IMPACT Wrestling and continues to thrill fans around the US indie scene.
Joey Lynch, BOTB Debut
Another Southern indie star on the rise and finally getting his due is Texas’ Joey Lynch. The longtime tag team star (who competes with brother Matt in The Lynch Mob), Lynch is a tough brawler with unsuspecting athleticism, which he displayed winning the Scenic City Invitational last year. His work of late has even caught the attention of WWE.
John Silver, BOTB Debut
Despite a lengthy career with CZW going back to 2011, this year marks the BOTB debut for John Silver. A long-standing regular with Beyond Wrestling and a member of The Beaver Boys with Alex Reynolds, Silver is another indie star looking to take advantage of the recent indie main event signings by WWE, All Elite Wrestling and others to finally get his proper due.
Jordan Oliver, BOTB Debut
Only 19 years old, Jordan Oliver is another huge part of CZW’s youth movement. Only wrestling since 2016, Oliver is already wearing CZW gold, as the company’s reigning CZW Wired Champion. He makes his BOTB debut this year as well, and hopes his youthful exuberance can outlast the experience of several other competitors.
Kris Statlander, BOTB Debut
In the past few months, Kris Statlander has emerged as one of the faces to watch in 2019, bursting out from the New Jersey scene where she debuted with Create-A-Pro Wrestling School and WrestlePro. Now she’s a regular with the likes of Beyond Wrestling, CZW, Game Changer Wrestling (GCW), and more, including recent debuts with SHIMMER and Ring of Honor. She recently beat Jordynne Grace for the Women Superstars Uncensored (WSU) Spirit Championship and has big wins over AR Fox, Leyla Hirsch, Chris Dickinson, and fellow BOTB competitor David Starr. She even appeared this week on WWE’s SmackDown Live in tag team action with Karissa Rivera against WWE Women’s Tag Team Champions The Iiconics.
Mance Warner, BOTB Debut
With Amazing Red‘s sudden retirement last week, it created an open spot and reigning CZW World Heavyweight Champion Mance Warner has stepped up to fill that spot. But it won’t be an easy ride for the World Champ, as his title will be on the line during every match he’s a part of throughout the tournament, the first time since former CZW World Champion Ruckus did the same in 2006.
Myron Reed, 2nd BOTB
Myron Reed is another impressive young competitor in this year’s BOTB, which is his second appearance after debuting last year. Part of the Rascalz faction on the indies with Dezmond Xavier, Zachary Wentz and Trey Miguel (although not featured on the IMPACT incarnation), he’s primarily known as a tag team specialist, winning tag team gold in All American Wrestling (AAW) with AR Fox, Glory Pro with Stephen Wolf and IWA Mid South, with both Trey Miguel and Sugar Dunkerton. But he’s also a highly skilled singles wrestler at only 21 years old, being a former Glory Pro Crown of Glory Champion in 2017 for 161 days.
Sammy Guevara, BOTB Debut
The last announced competitor is All Elite Wrestling’s hot-head high-flyer, Sammy Guevara. The 25-year old Texas native has exploded from his home state indies in recent years, and held the AAA World Cruiserweight Championship next week. He’s gearing up for the first AEW event in May in Double or Nothing, but first he’s going to try and prove he’s the Best of the Best.